Farming Overhaul Vital

Farming Overhaul VitalFarming Overhaul Vital

About 50 years ago, when Iran had a population of 20 million and an annual per capita water availability of 7,000 cubic meters, international organizations warned Iran of the impending water crisis if the country did not start being more conservative with its water use. Today, with a population of 85 million and annual per capita water availability of 1,900 cubic meters per capita, the threat of water crisis looms, ILNA reported.

Iran’s geographical position and the country’s dwindling water resources call for a complete revamp of unsustainable farming practices.

The government has resorted to infomercials and billboards to raise awareness and implore people to reduce their water use lest the government will be forced to ration water during the hot summer months.

As high as domestic water use may be, it pales in comparison to the amount of water used in agriculture. Iran’s wasteful farming practices gobble up 75% to 90% of the water resources, with a mere 30% return. Given Iran’s worsening water crisis, widely-practiced intensive crop farming can only be detrimental to the country’s water security.

One reason for growing water-intensive crops such as watermelons and oranges is their high profitability. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Iran ranks 2nd and 7th globally in the production of watermelon and oranges respectively, high rankings for a country headed for an epic water crisis. A quick look at the top five producers of watermelon shows that only countries, such as Turkey, with access to significant water reserves belong on the list.

Exporting these crops might be profitable, but in the long run it cannot justify the amount of water needed to grow such crops.

The inflow of foreign exchange thanks to the export of water-intensive crops dissuades policymakers from implementing changes to the unsustainable farming practices.

It is high time Iran started thinking about the inevitable water crisis. Prudence and thinking long-term when it comes to national interest necessitate prioritizing conservation of the country’s limited water resources over revenues which is undoubtedly valuable but transient.